Saturday, July 16, 2016

Dante Shrugged

by Larry Beane

How little things have changed since 1320, when the great poet Dante Alighieri complained about the worship wars in his own day and age in his Divine Comedy:

"Christ did not say to His first congregation:
'Go preach idle nonsense to the world,'
But gave them a sound foundation.

"And that alone resounded from their lips,
So that, in their warfare to ignite the faith,
they used the Gospel as their shield and lance.

"Now preachers ply their trade with buffoonery and jokes,
their cowls inflating if they get a laugh,
and the people ask for nothing more."

~ Dante (through the character Beatrice), Paradiso, 29:109-117

Cited by Rod Dreher in How Dante Can Save Your Life, p. 151

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A Toast to the Milwaukee Reinstatement of Augsburg Confession Article XIV

The 2016 Milwaukee Convention of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod will likely be remembered as the convention that restored this august church body to its moorings in the Augsburg Confession, to wit, our churches confess that "no one should publicly teach or administer the sacraments without a regular call" (Article XIV). Such a simple confession, yet trampled underfoot by 27 years of misguided so-called 'emergencies' and other unscriptural reasons for pretending men are pastors who are actually not pastors, and expecting them to do what pastors do without the calling and ordination to do it (Baptists may get away with this kind of thing, but among Lutherans it certainly should not be so). Since the 1989 Wichita Convention that enacted this de facto amendment to the Augsburg Confession, we have had to endure life in a church that was at fundamental odds with itself in word and deed. No longer, deo gracias. Now the Synod has provided a way for these men to be trained, examined, and ordained. Now there is a deadline in 2018 after which all pastors will be pastors.

I had the opportunity to speak briefly with Synodical President Matthew Harrison, and to commend him for his work, and for his patience over the past several years, which has, as I put it to him, "paid off in spades."

Rightly should we all sing our Te Deums and celebrate this day!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Squandering the Treasure

by Larry Beane

One of our LCMS districts sent out the following advice for prayer:

1) Go to the Facebook Search Bar.
2) Close your eyes and hit a random letter.
3) Pray for the first three people on the list.

Yes, they actually sent this out. It's not a joke,

When it comes to prayers and devotions, think of all the richness of our Lutheran tradition, old and new.  Think about the plethora of resources for prayer that are available at CPH and from Lulu.  Think about the treasure that is the Psalter and the Daily Office - and how these are accessible to us modern Lutherans via the Treasury of Daily Prayer, which is even available on a smartphone app.  There is Oremus produced by Pastor David Kind, The Essential Lutheran Prayer Book and Lord, Teach Us to Pray by Deacon Latif Gaba, and Emmanuel Press's Brotherhood Prayer Book edited by Pastor Michael Frese and Dr. Benjamin Mayes.

The Minister's Prayer Book by John Doberstein is an often overlooked trove of treasure from our tradition that specifically has pastors in mind.  Although out of print, Herbert Lindemann's The Daily Office remains a gem.  Our own Dr. Burnell Eckardt has authored a devotional volume that plumbs the depths of Scripture and the meditations of the church fathers: Every Day Will I Bless Thee.

From the beautiful treasures of our Lutheran past come Emanuel Press's reprint of Johann Starck's Motherhood Prayers as well as their reprint of Wilhelm Loehe's Seed-Grains of Prayer.  Those who enjoy daily meditations by Dr. Luther can always find an old copy of Day By Day We Magnify Thee.

For a less rigorous approach to prayer from within our tradition, we have the prayers for morning and evening and the mealtime prayers enshrined within our Small Catechism, as well as a user-friendly devotional based on the Catechism called The Lord Will Answer.

Moreover, let's not forget about the richness of our hymns, our collects, our prayers for family devotions, and our litanies which are found in our hymnals.  And pastors will be particularly blessed with the Pastoral Care Companion, a wonderful resource for giving soul care in the parish - and which is also available as a phone app.

And if you want something more spontaneous, think about Luther's pamphlet in which he taught his barber to pray.  There is also the modern Portals of Prayer, which includes a light daily devotion and can be carried in the pocket.  For intercessory prayer, there are our congregational prayer lists of people in need.  There are also our persecuted brethren to pray for.

All of this richness and vast array of options expose the shallowness of what amounts to be a kind of Facebook game, a sort of "prayer roulette" that is not much different than the old canard of opening a Bible at random and pointing to a verse.  This is not too distantly removed from using a Magic 8-Ball or a Ouija Board as a prayer aid, or just plain hurling darts at a board.

How sad to disregard such rich treasure and trade it in for tawdry trinkets.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The problem is not with your mailman

You might have noticed that the Trinity issue of Gottesdienst is delayed a bit. It's all ready to go, chomping at the bit, but we are holding the steed back for a couple more weeks, in order to tend to pressing LCMS convention matters at hand. No need to inquire about your subscription (unless, of course, you know you don't have one, in which case, well, you can easily do something about that). We do promise to get all caught up soon: the Michaelmas (late September) issue is still on schedule, which means that although Trinity is late, the next issue should be on time. That's the plan, anyhow. Sorry about the great chagrin this will no doubt cause among our eager and expectant readers, and thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Fun Stat on Harrison’s Reelection!

We rejoice with Rev. Matthew Harrison in his reelection as President of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. As I said before, he is a lifelong advocate of reverent worship and is faithfully leading our Synod toward compliance with AC XIV. I also said that this election was a referendum on AC XIV and the plan to end the Licensed Lay Deacons program. The other two candidates were for the LLD program and against the Harrison team's plan to end it. But Harrison was reelected, resoundingly. 

How resoundingly? Let's do the math. From the official press release.

David P. E. Maier 393 votes (6.38%)
Dale A. Meyer 2,257 votes (36.66%)
Total Electorate:7,348
Percentage Voted:83.79%

For President:Matthew C. Harrison3,507 votes (56.96%)
Total Votes Cast: 6,157
So there were a total of 1,191 people who chose not to vote. What if all of them had voted for the second place finisher? Then his vote total would have risen to 3,448. Still short of the Harrison mark. And, of course, it's folly to assume that 100% of the outstanding votes would have gone to any one candidate. 
The presidential electors are the widest possible representative vote we have in our polity. The delegates to the convention, a group about 1/6 that size, should hear this message loud and clear.  As should the floor committees putting the final touches on various resolutions - especially the LLD resolution (13-02). Harrison provided direct leadership on this (see his speech from our conference), even while a full third of the COP were signing letters questioning his leadership, and truly scurrilous attacks were being made against him by former officials. Now the Synod has spoken. 
So be bold, Floor Committee 13. Be bold, delegates. Tippicanoe and AC XIV too!